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"Bloomfest" to Honor Late Arts District Pioneer

By Ed Fuentes
Published: Monday, July 13, 2009, at 11:57AM
Joel Bloom Ed Fuentes

Joel Bloom stands outside Bloom's General Store in February of 2007.

Bloom's General Store is now only a memory, but this Saturday the community will gather to celebrate the man who founded the Arts District store and community outpost.

In 2007, family and friends gathered to remember Joel Bloom, who passed away on July 13 of that year. A neighborhood block party was held in his honor in 2008, and this year organizers are calling the gathering a music and arts festival, dubbed Bloomfest 09.

It's a heady title that Bloom would have basked in, and fitting for the area known as the Arts Distict.

The neighborhood of former warehouses is anchored by what is now Joel Bloom Square at 3rd and Traction. While it is less a gallery conclave these days, the area is still filled with artists in lofts, musicians using space for rehearsals, and actors and playwrights keeping theater companies active. The Arts District remains experimental and prolific.

In the 1980s and 1990s, there were few resources for artists living and working in the area. It was Bloom and other community advocates who lobbied for services and adopted the name Arts District, solidifying the identity of the neighborhood on this side of the Alameda curtain.

For now, theater seems to be the most active of the arts with Padua Playwrights acting as a theater company in residence at Art Share; Cornerstone Theater continuing to be based on Traction, and now X Repertory Theatre on the south end of the Arts District on Industrial.

Bloom's General Store had its troubles after its founder passed away. It was briefly saved by a community fundraiser in July 2008, yet struggled before shuttering its doors in March 2009, fading away in what would have been its 15th year of operation.

Still, Bloom will soon have another reminder of his work. The neighborhood advocate, who is defined on the sign in Joel Bloom Square as "Arts District Pioneer," will also be remembered when the first trains of the Gold Line rolls by on 1st Street. Bloom served on the line's Advisory Committee.

The abrupt and prolific man who spent time on Metro advisory committees, lobbying for DASH Lines, encouraging businesses to start up or organizing neighborhood watch walking –– in between time selling toothpaste and cigars –– really showed how Downtown never stopped being a place to live and work.

BLOOMFEST / July 18 / 11am to 11pm / Joel Bloom Square (East 3rd and Traction) / Sponsored by LARABA (Los Angeles River Artists & Business Association, ISGOODMUSIC, and EVFA (Edgar Varela Fine Arts) / 14 Live Bands (include Christopher Dallman, Garland, Fire Bug, Seasons, Tawny Ellis, boxViolet and closes with Healamonster and Tarsier) / Free

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